Noah Gragson Returns To Martinsville To Fight For A Win

Noah Gragson

Noah Gragson has been looking forward to returning to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway since April 1 of this year, the first time he raced there in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS). It was that day when the rookie scored his first top-five finish in his Switch Tundra and after such a competitive race, he was ready to come back and battle for a win.

In the spring race, Gragson started ninth after only having one hour of practice due to rain on Friday. He spent much of the first stage finding a rhythm to get around the flat, paperclip-shaped track. He was up to fifth in the second stage until he was spun from behind by another competitor, but battled his way back up to the front at a track where it is notoriously hard to pass. He was eighth to begin the final stage and finished the race fourth. After that race, he was counting down the days until he could race at Martinsville again.

This will be the first time Gragson returns to a track where he has previous experience in his Switch Tundra. Every track up to this point has been a new experience for the 19-year-old rookie, but this weekend he has a much better idea of what to expect and how to improve. He also has a veteran crew chief in his corner, Marcus Richmond, who already has two wins under his belt at Martinsville. His first victory came with Dennis Setzer in 2008, followed by a trip to Victory Lane with Kevin Harvick in 2012.

With only four races remaining in the 2017 NCWTS season, Gragson still has his sights set on his first win. He came close with a second-place finish on the road course of Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ont., but perhaps his second time around at Martinsville on Saturday will be his race. Winning at Martinsville not only takes a fast truck, but the driver must have a good balance of patience and aggression to protect the track position he has, and gain more. Gragson will have 200 laps around “the paperclip” to see what he can do with his Switch Tundra to end up in Victory Lane.

 Noah Gragson, Driver of the No. 18 NCWTS Switch Tundra:

Will this race be easier since you have one truck race under your belt at Martinsville already?

“The challenge of the race isn’t any easier, but my confidence is higher since I’ll kind of know what to expect this time. I’ve only run once there so I still don’t have that much experience compared to a lot of the other drivers, but it’s still more than I had back in April. Having been there before should help in practice as well. I’ll be able to get up to speed faster after we unload and give more feedback to make the truck even better.”

After you won the Winchester 400, you talked about how excited you were for Martinsville. How do the two tracks compare?

“The two tracks aren’t similar at all, but they are both short tracks. I love short-track racing and feel more confident at them since that is where most of my experience is. It still takes some time for me to get the feel of the intermediate tracks, so when there is a short track on the schedule I definitely have it circled on the calendar. We finished fourth at Martinsville in the spring and ran in third toward the end, so I’m looking forward to going back.”

What do you know about racing at Martinsville now that you didn’t know in the spring race?

“I learned I could make the restarts work on the outside, which I’d never seen anyone do before. I decided to give it a try and it ended up working. I was one of the only guys who could pass on the outside in the spring race, although I’m not sure why it worked for me and nobody else. I also didn’t know how the rubber would lay down on the track throughout the race, so I feel like my notes were really good from this race in April. Hopefully we can make small changes on how we raced and be a little bit better to have what it takes to win.”

Marcus Richmond, Crew Chief of the No. 18 NCWTS Switch Tundra:

What are your expectations for Noah’s return to Martinsville this weekend after a top-five finish his first time there in the spring?

“We had a good run last time without a lot of practice, so hopefully Friday we can get our full two hours of practice. I think Noah and I are both on the same page that we’re going for a win this time. I feel like we’ll have a good Switch Tundra, and if he does as good a job as he did last time we were at Martinsville, we’ll make the truck better, make him better and have a shot at the win.”

Noah Gragson’s No. 18 Switch Tundra:

KBM-025: The No. 18 Switch team will race KBM-025, for Saturday’s Texas Roadhouse 200. Gragson raced this truck at Gateway (ninth) and New Hampshire (pole and finished 15th). In nine starts it has one win at Gateway with Christopher Bell in 2016.

 

KBM-25 Performance Profile

Starts

Wins

Average Start

Average Finish

Laps Led

 9

1

6.2

6.7

156

Notes of Interest:

Noah Gragson 2017:

  • Earned his best NCWTS finish at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ont., when he finished second on 9/3

  • Earned his first top-five finish in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series by finishing fourth at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in April. He also finished fifth at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta in July

  • Won first career NCWTS pole at Texas Motor Speedway on 6/9, second at Iowa Speedway on 6/23 and third at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on 9/23

  • Has posted three top-five and 11 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 11.7 across 19 NCWTS starts this season

  • Won the prestigious Winchester 400 Champion Racing Association Super Series race at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway driving for KBM on 10/8

  • Competed in the ARCA Racing Series at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc., and Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., earning one top-five and two top-10 finishes

Noah Gragson 2016:

  • Made first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway in November where he completed all the laps to finish 16th. Finished 15th the following week at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway

  • Returned to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West where he earned two wins, eight top-five and 13 top-10 finishes in 14 starts to finish third in the driver point standings

  • Competed in 13 of 14 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East races claiming two wins, four top-five and six top-10 finishes

Noah Gragson 2015

  • Finished second in the final NASCAR K&N Pro Series West driver point standings as a rookie after posting two wins, one pole, seven top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 13 starts

  • Claimed his first victory at Tucson (Ariz.) Speedway battling with his teammate for the win

  • Recorded first career pole and led 176 laps to win at Meridian Speedway in Meridian, Idaho

Noah Gragson 2014

  • Started racing Bandoleros at The Bullring at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway

  • Moved up to compete in Late Models

  • Competed in the INEX Legends car racing series, winning the 2014 Young Lion Road Course championship

Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 18 Tundra:

  • The No. 18 team is currently 13th in owner points and 11th in driver points after collecting three top-five and 11 top-10 finishes this season

  • Five members of this year’s No. 18 Tundra team were a part of last year’s No. 4 Tundra team which collected one win, 197 laps led, nine top-five and 17 top-10 finishes across 23 starts and made the inaugural Championship Four in the Chase

KBM NCWTS Program

  • Holds the NCWTS records for most career wins (64), most wins in a single season (14 in 2014) and most Owner’s championships (five)

  • Erik Jones earned the organization its first-ever NCWTS Driver’s championship in 2015

  • Has collected 64 wins, 36 poles, 154 top-five and 247 top-10 finishes across 408 starts since originating in 2010

  • Nine different drivers have won a race for KBM, led by owner-driver Kyle Busch with 33. Christopher Bell, Erik Jones and William Byron have each collected seven victories, Darrell Wallace Jr., has five wins, Denny Hamlin has produced two victories while Daniel Suarez, Kasey Kahne and Brian Scott each collected one trophy

  • With Bell’s victory at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway KBM has at least one win at all 21 tracks on the 2017 NCWTS schedule

KBM NCWTS @ Martinsville Speedway

  • KBM drivers have collected five wins, three poles, 722 laps led, 16 top-five and 25 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 8.6 across 36 starts at Martinsville

  • Denny Hamlin (2011 and 2012) and Darrell Wallace Jr. (2013 and 2014) each have two wins for KBM at ‘The Paperclip,’ while Kyle Busch has one victory. Wallace Jr., Hamlin and Busch have each captured one pole at the .526-mile oval

Richmond’s Record:

Entering the 2017 season, Marcus Richmond had collected nine wins, 11 poles, 52 top-five and 107 top-10 finishes across 222 races in his 11 seasons as a crew chief in the Truck Series. The veteran crew chief has been to victory lane with five different drivers (Ty Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Timothy Peters, Johnny Sauter and Dennis Setzer) and has recorded at least one win every year since 2012. The North Carolina native’s drivers have finished inside the top five in the Truck Series championship standings four times in the last five seasons, including a runner-up finish in the standings with Ty Dillon in 2012. His most recent stop was at JR Motorsports last season, where he guided Cole Custer to two poles, four top-five and 12 top-10 finishes over the last 16 races of 2016. Richmond joined KBM in December 2016 to coach rookie Noah Gragson in 2017.

Richmond has two wins at Martinsville as a crew chief in the NCWTS. His first victory came with Dennis Setzer in 2008, followed by a trip to Victory Lane with Kevin Harvick in 2012. He and Gragson finished fourth in the spring event.

Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 18 Switch Toyota Tundra 2017 NCWTS Box Score:

Date

Site

Driver

Start

Finish

Laps

Laps Led

Status

Driver Pts./Pos.

2/24

Daytona

Gragson

12

26

1/100

0

Accident

11/22nd

3/4

Atlanta

Gragson

10

14

130/130

0

Running

34/17th

4/1

Martinsville

Gragson

9

4

250/250

0

Running

70/11th

5/12

Kansas

Gragson

4

28

68/167

0

Clutch

79/13th

5/19

Charlotte

Gragson

15

9

134/134

0

Running

111/13th

6/2

Dover

Gragson

8

9

199/200

0

Running

145/10th

6/9

Texas

Gragson

1

7

167/167

13

Running

181/10th

6/17

Gateway

Gragson

7

9

160/160

0

Running

209/10th

6/23

Iowa

Gragson

1

6

200/200

16

Running

255/9th

7/6

Kentucky

Gragson

11

5

150/150

32

Running

299/9th

7/19

Eldora

Gragson

10

7

150/150

0

Running

329/9th

7/29

Pocono

Gragson

8

24

39/60

0

Accident

345/9th

8/12

Michigan

Gragson

5

7

100/100

0

Running

382/9th

8/16

Bristol

Gragson

4

15

202/203

0

Running

418/9th

9/3

Canadian Tire

Gragson

6

2

64/64

0

Running

458/9th

9/15

Chicago

Gragson

6

8

150/150

0

Running

489/11th

9/23

New Hampshire

Gragson

1

15

174/175

40

Running

519/11th

9/30

Las Vegas

Gragson

13

13

144/146

12

Running

548/11th

10/14

Talladega

Gragson

8

14

95/95

0

Running

571/11th

TIL NEXT TIME I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

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